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Alternate History

Ponifex Valentinus

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In the Second Century CE, The Christian Gnostic Egyptian teacher Valentinus is elected Bishop of Rome in a close election defeating the faction led by Justin of Caesarea (OTL Justin Martyr), thus changing the history of Early Christianity.

Timeline

140-160 CE: Establishing Ties With Outsiders

The election as Bishop of Rome of Valentinus silences opposition to his version of Christianity, however Valentinus allows for other Christian beliefs to continue. In so far as they do not promote extreme dogma. Valentinus himself meets the Emperor Antonius Pius, and asks for Christianity to be tolerated. "We have no quarrel with the Emperor as long as our right to worship is respected." The Emperor grants a probationary decree of tolerance, telling Valentinus about a fear of more radical Christians seeking martyrdom against Rome. The bishop explains his motivations of bringing the mysteries to those who are ignorant (meaning the Christian masses). Antonius Pius agrees but remains cautions. In his first act as Bishop of Rome, Valentinus makes clear his allowance of other Christian theologies, explaining that all roads lead to knowledge (Gnosis). Valentinus also begins a series of programs within Rome with his school to educate other Christians in the "inner mysteries". Meeting with his students in Alexandria as well as other Eastern teachers, Valentinus asks for a faith of tolerance and truth. In his relationship with Jews and Pagans, the Bishop is cordial, hoping to bridge the gap between the religions. Valentinus meets with the exiled Jews in Sepphoris and publicly in a sermon refutes the claim by some Christians that the Jewish exile from Jerusalem is divine punishment for the Jews' role in the Crucifixion. Valentinus states "no Jew or Roman is too be held responsible for Christ's death, since it was God's plan of reconciliation for humanity unto himself, the barrier is gone the curtain torn." Valentinus also however defends his cosmology, with his aspects of God. Some educated Jews do listen intently. Generations later Jewish intellectuals influenced by Valentinus constructed a similar model within Jewish Kabbalah. Returning to his home city in Alexandria the Bishop also meets with great Pagan teachers in the Serapium telling them, Christianity is in agreement with the ideas of Plato, and secretly tells them that St. Paul was a Platonist. Impressed the teachers listen to Valentinus but choose to remain in the Pagan camp. One of the people their is a Carthage native Apuleius who tells Valentinus that his Myth of Sophia is similar to an old myth of Eros and Psyche. The meeting does much for Pagan-Christian relations. In other matters Valentinus states that he does not follow Marcion's line of total rejection of Jewish Scripture (Old Testament). "God fills much beauty is the works of men. While I agree with Brother Marcion that at times the God of the Jewish scripture is unlike the God of our Savior, I cannot reject the beauty of the Psalms. Truth is too be found everywhere in this cosmos, hidden away, needed to be harvested by philosophers who as farmers gives the bounty of their harvest to those who are hungry". Meeting with the bishops most agree with Valentinus, but the Bishop does not excommunicate Marcion or his followers. By his death Valentinus has created a Chrisianity wealthy of ideas and acceptance in the Roman world. His successors continue the pattern.

160-200: Issues within the Faith

Following Valentinus, much of the Christian debate follows cannonization of scripture. With many diverse communities valuing different scripture, such a process becomes difficult. The Valentinian school promotes acceptance of Jewish scripture, under the acknowledgement of reading it allegorically, as well as the Epsiles of St. Paul, which all Christians accept. The question is over which Gospels are deemed canon. The Valentinians argue that no canon will solve the issue and are weary of such a process. Most communities do accept the Gospel of John as scripture, and non-Valentinian Bishops examine the works by their counterparts. The other issue is of the status of Mary Magdalene, is she the symbolic consort of Christ or the literal lover of Christ or both. Justianians (followers of Justin Martyr) under Irenauns say literal. The Sethians argue for her symbolic nature as Sophia. Realizing that the human person of Jesus provides a relatable figure for Christians seeking Gnosis, the Valentinians strike a compromise Mary is both the symbolic and literal consort of Christ. As Sophia she is Christ's other half, as a person she was his close companion and student. This also allows the further inclusion of women into Church and liturgical positions. Allow some Women as Bishops although in Valentinian schools bishops are still chosen by lot as opposed to being appointed, the official position is that of teacher. The Valentinans also state if there is going to be an organized faith, with all Christians, then some establishing guidelines need to be understood.

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